Hamlet and New Historicism

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New Historicism is a modern literary theory that focuses on how events, culture, and places within a society influence a written work. New Historicists analyze allusions to characteristics of the time period in which the work was written. By definition, new historicism seeks to discover the significance in a text by taking into account the work within the construction of the established ideas and assumptions of its historical era. Literary texts are entrenched with historical context and the author is seen as subject to the forces of the culture that he or she works within. New Historicists reject the New Critical principle that texts are autonomous and should be read without any comparison to history, and instead argue that texts are always linked to their historical and social framework.

William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, written between 1599 and 1602, is a tragedy that has become an iconic example of madness, paranoia, romance, blood thirst, and the supernatural. Hamlet sees his father’s ghost and discovers that his father, the former King of Denmark, was poisoned by his brother Claudius. As the plot unfolds, Hamlet appears to be crazed as his paranoia and suspicions overcome him. Claudius sends Hamlet away to England to be murdered when he suspects that Hamlet is on to him. Hamlet then escapes and returns back to Denmark where he fights with his now killed lover’s brother Laertes. As Hamlet is dying due to a wound from Laertes’s sword, he forces Claudius to drink poisoned wine. As in all Shakespeare’s tragedies, every main character is deceased by the end of the play.

The role of monarchy in the play is important for New Historicism analyzation. Most sovereign nations were under such rule at this time in history, including Shakespeare’s homeland, England. At the time the play was written, England had a woman, Queen Elizabeth I, in power, but the monarchs within the play represent a patriarchal monarchy since they are all male. This may be interpreted as...
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